Early life and education

When she was born in Mayfair in 1926, Princess Elizabeth (later The Queen) and her family did not expect that she would one day become Monarch. But everything changed in December 1936 when her uncle – King Edward VIII - abdicated, making her father King, and her next in line to the throne.

 

The Queen was born at 2.40am on 21 April 1926 at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London, the London home of her maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore. She was the first child of The Duke and Duchess of York - who later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. She was christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary at Buckingham Palace on 29 May that year.

At the time she stood third in the line of succession to the throne after Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), and her father, The Duke of York.  

The Princess was christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace. She was named after her mother, while her two middle names are those of her paternal great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra, and paternal grandmother, Queen Mary.

Family life

The Princess's early years were spent at 145 Piccadilly, the London house taken by her parents shortly after her birth, and at White Lodge in Richmond Park. 

She also spent time at the homes of her paternal grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, such as Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House, and those of her mother's parents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore, including Glamis Castle in Angus, Scotland and St Paul's Walden Bury in Hertfordshire. 

In 1930, Princess Elizabeth's sister, Princess Margaret Rose was born. The family of four were very close. 

When Princess Elizabeth was six years old, her parents took over Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park as their own country home.

In the grounds of Royal Lodge, she was given her own small house, Y Bwthyn Bach (the Little Cottage); a gift from the people of Wales for her sixth birthday in 1932.

The Abdication of King Edward VIII 

Princess Elizabeth's quiet family life came to an end in 1936, when her grandfather, King George V, died. His eldest son came to the throne as King Edward VIII, but, before the end of the year, King Edward VIII had decided to give up the throne in order to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson. 

Upon King Edward VIII's abdication, Princess Elizabeth's father acceded to the throne as King George VI and in May 1937 the two Princesses attended their parents' Coronation in Westminster Abbey.

From now on, Princess Elizabeth was the first in line to the throne and a figure of even more intense public interest.

The war years

In 1940, at the height of the Blitz, the young Princesses were moved for their safety to Windsor Castle, where they spent most of the war years. While at Windsor, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret continued their education, participated in air raid drills and were subject to food rationing and other privations along with the rest of the country.

The King and Queen joined them at Windsor whenever possible, but continued to stay in London, touring the country in support of the war effort, including meeting communities who had suffered from bombing raids. It was a time of austerity and anxiety for the whole country, including the Royal Family. But at Christmas time there was a period of light relief when the young Princesses put on pantomimes with the children of members of staff for the enjoyment of their  family and employees of the Royal Household.

Education

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were educated at home like many girls from wealthy families at that time. 

After her father succeeded to the throne in 1936 and Princess Elizabeth became heir presumptive (first in line to the throne), she started to study constitutional history and law as preparation for her future role. 

She received tuition from her father, as well as sessions with Henry Marten, the Vice-Provost of Eton. She was also educated in religion by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Princess Elizabeth learned French from a number of French and Belgian governesses. It is a skill which has stood The Queen in good stead, particularly on visits to French-speaking Canada and to French speaking countries.

Princess Elizabeth also studied art and music, learned to ride horses and became a strong swimmer. She enrolled as a Girl Guide when she was eleven, later becoming a Sea Ranger. And she won the Children's Challenge Shield at London's Bath Club when she was thirteen. While at Windsor during the War, the Princess also competed at the first Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1944. Driving a Norwegian pony named Hans in in a carriage with her sister as passenger, Princess Elizabeth won the Single Private Driving Class. 

 

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